A statue of a Union soldier swinging his rifle like a club at the Gettysburg, Pa., battlefield was damaged by heavy winds Tuesday, on the eve of the 150th anniversary of the pivotal American Civil War battle.
The statue has been returned to its pedestal, but has visible damage to its rifle, The Evening Sun of Hanover reported Thursday.
The monument honors the 72nd Pennsylvania Infantry and stands at a key spot along Pickett’s Charge, the failed Confederate initiative that turned the battle and was a pivotal moment in the war.
National Park Service spokesman Mike Litterst said Thursday that the musket barrel on the statue was bent after landing on the ground. The shoulder area also suffered a little damage. Monument restoration staff gave it a temporary repair job.
It will stay up through anniversary events before being taken down for more extensive repairs.
“All things considered, the damage could have been much, much worse,” Litterst said.
Civil War veterans won a 1891 Pennsylvania Supreme Court case to get the monument located on that spot.
The actions of the 72nd during the fighting drew criticism during and after the battle, because they did not follow orders to drive the Rebels from a stone wall, allowing them to breach Union lines. After other regiments rushed to the spot they did eventually move forward, but were scolded by commanders for their actions.
When it came time to place their monument, the veterans wanted the stone wall spot, but rules of the Gettysburg Battlefield Memorial Association required it to mark their position in the main line of battle, a different location.
That produced the litigation and the favorable court ruling.
As a result they did not need a 900-square-foot piece of land they had purchased on the other side of the wall, property that developers of an electric railroad needed for their project.
The veterans refused to sell, and the dispute focused national attention on battlefield preservation. A second lawsuit, filed in federal court, resulted in a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that upheld eminent domain powers to protect historic sites.
The 72nd Pennsylvania suffered 197 men killed, wounded or missing out of their ranks of 498 during the battle.
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